Well, that was a hot one – 13 June 2021

I don’t know how far up the tube the little cylinder of mercury got, but it was quite far.

Not as far, perhaps, as the others in the family who are further south than us. Temperatures there were close to 30º by all accounts. Thankfully we had a cooling breeze to keep us in a more temperate climate. That said, we were still pretty warm and with blue skies and occasional clouds, the world was looking quite good.

We did a bit of gardening maintenance in the afternoon and then we both went for a walk in St Mo’s, but there was little insect activity, probably on account of the strong breeze through which the dragonflies might navigate, but the poor little damselflies would find it a struggle. Scamp and I went one circuit together before she left to do some more gardening with the option of a seat in the sun later. I carried on for another round of the pond.

On that second trip round I did find a Common Blue damselfly sitting quite happily on the boardwalk warming itself in the sun. It was a bit skittish, so I took my time stalking it and grabbed a few shots before I heard heavy footsteps behind me as a young couple passed. That was enough to scare off my Common Blue. Strangely, the girl turned and looked at me as I apologised for almost blocking their path and I’m sure she was a former pupil. She was probably wondering what her old teacher was doing sprawled on the boardwalk. Possibly she would come to the wrong conclusion that I’d been consuming intoxicating liquor! That would come much later in the day.

The common blue was the best shot of the day although I did go further afield in search of something larger, but there were no dragons flying today.

I came home and found Scamp in the back garden, reading, so I made her a Pimms and had a can of lager for myself. I then spent a comfortable half an hour in the sun, listening to my next Audible choice which is book 10 in the Inspector McLean series by James Oswald. Then it was time to get dinner sorted.

Tonight, dinner was Crab and Chilli Linguini. I was being ultra-careful as crab is really quite expensive, but most of the hard work had been done for me because I was using dressed crab that had been in the freezer for a month or so and came from a company JIC had recommended. The dinner was good, but not great. My fault, or my recipe’s fault, certainly not the crab’s. Too dry was the general complaint from both of us. Maybe next time I’ll make a better job of it.

No dancing tonight. Not our fault, but problems with internet connection at the teachers’ end. After a couple of near things, it was declared a no-show and as nobody seemed to have a free evening this week, normal service will hopefully be resumed next Sunday. We did have our own practise in the living room as all the furniture had been organised for the class.

Spoke to JIC and heard about all the trials and tribulations of house hunting down south. They really are finding some strange houses and even stranger sellers. Also we learned that there are swimming pools for dogs down south. Isn’t that what ponds and lakes are for?

Annette is coming to visit tomorrow for lunch. Other than that, nothing planned.

Driving – 11 June 2021

A second visit to Ravenscraig.

We had just left the house when the rain started, but it didn’t linger. It was only telling us that it was still there, still wetting the ground, still watering thirsty plants, still wetting the washing that should have been drying on the ‘whirly’. We picked up Shona and then drove out to Ravenscraig. Accidentally I took a different route which seemed much quicker than the one the sat nav thought was best. We drove past my old work place in Newarthill, now a housing estate with no sign of the huge factory that once stood there.

It took a bit longer for Shona to get her jag, this her second AZ jag. She seemed little bothered by the event, although she was probably relieved the the whole thing was over, or at least over for now. We drove back to Cumbersheugh and went for coffee in Costa at the end of the depressing Antonine Centre. I wondered, not for the first time, what Antoninus Pius would have thought of this concrete and steel monstrosity that now bears his name. Shona had insisted that she was buying today and we agreed that would be great. Even Costa coffee has improved since lockdown has been eased. For one thing, they’ve gone back to using real cups and saucers, not those big cardboard half pint tumblers they used when everyone had to do take-away. For another they simply fill the cup now, rather than attempt to fill the big half pint tumbler with water to make sure it was filled to the brim although they still only put a single shot of coffee in it. It wasn’t just Costa either, Nero were just as bad. Today’s PoD came from Costa. Looking up from my seat at the lattice of dirty windows and just the corner of a manky water stained ’sail’ above the Costa cafe counter.

We sat and drank our coffee while we listened to Shona’s news. Some bad, but mostly good. It’s heartening to hear that she seems to be seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s a long tunnel, but it appears that the light is real. Then it was time to take her home and thank her for lunch.

Before we’d gone out this morning I’d made the dough for a Spelt and Walnut loaf. It had been proving for about four hours and was ready to be shaped into a loaf ready for the oven. Once that was done, I could turn my thought to dinner. It was to be a quiche filled with broccoli and chunks of smoked salmon, a recipe I’d pinched from Jackie. I didn’t have time to make the shortcrust pastry for the base, so I drove up to Tesco to get some ready made. Bumped into Mrs Begg from CHS and had a few words with her. Back home I was happy to be led through the mysteries of making a quiche by Scamp and as soon as the bread came out of the oven, the quiche replaced it with a small apple turnover too, to make best use of the left over pastry. Loaf, quiche and turnover were successful.

Watched an hour of nostalgia on BBC 4. A Singers Songwriters compilation that we hadn’t seen before. Wonderful music by singers we’d grown up listening to.

No plans for tomorrow. Today has been a day of passing showers, some of which took some time to pass by. Tomorrow looks the same.

Coffee and Visitors’ Biscuits – 8 June 2021

It was the biscuits that swung it for me.

Isobel phoned this morning asking if we wanted to come down and visit today. She said we could have a cup of coffee and she’d bought Visitors’ biscuits. I didn’t know what visitors’ biscuits were, but I was fairly sure they weren’t Rich Teas or Digestives, so I was up for it, so was Scamp. She was on the phone to Annette about a certain caravan in St Andrews that would become vacant some time soon, so I agreed for her and said Scamp would phone her when the deal was done with Annette.

I had a couple of Aquilegia plants to pot up for Isobel, so I got started to that and we were almost ready to go. Just a quick cup of coffee first then we were off to the Village.

We had an entertaining hour or so with Isobel then she gave us a guided tour of her garden. She has a wealth of plants in her fairly small garden and takes no prisoners. If she thinks a plant if failing, it gets chucked out. I’m sure Scamp gets some of her gardening nous from Isobel. Oh yes, and the biscuits were Tunnocks Teacakes and very nice they were too!

On the way home we stopped at Tesco and came out with a shopping bag fairly clinking with our ‘groceries’. A bottle of gin, one of Pimms and one of Limoncello. All the bottles were reduced, so some money spent, but a fair amount saved too! We drove home.

Hazy phoned almost as we crossed the threshold of the house and we had a long chat. Lots of books discussed and yes, Hazy, The Hidden Palace is now on my wish list. I may even re-read the Gollem and the Djinni too, if I can remember how to read after all the Audible books!

Went for a walk in St Mo’s in the afternoon to give the ‘new’ Samyang 18mm lens a good test and it passed with flying colours. Every shot from macro, through middle distance to far distance was in focus. It’s such a pity that I had to shell out an extra £50 to buy the lens station that would allow me to upgrade the firmware. It’s just another case of a company expecting users to do their work for them and also having to pay for the privilege. The rush to get technology on the market ahead of rivals means that the tech itself goes on the shelf only part finished. It’s things like this that make me give up on some companies like Samyang. Yes, they are cheap, but yes, they are nasty too! Rant number 2 this week is over.

Dinner tonight was Butter Chicken, but for some reason this time the sauce was a bit acidic. It can only be down to the passata as that’s really the only thing that was changed since the last time. Next time I’ll just used blitzed tomatoes. Still makes a decent curry sauce, though.

PoD went to a bunch of clover flowers photographed with the updated Samyang 18mm.

No plans for tomorrow. It looks like being a wet morning.

 

 

Entertaining lunch – 24 May 2021

We were picking Isobel up and taking her for coffee today.

Always an entertainment, Isobel. She just speaks her mind and if you don’t like it, then … tough. For some reason I actually enjoyed my coffee in Costa. Maybe it was the company or maybe it was the Bosh Chocolate Slice which I hadn’t noticed was vegan, but you couldn’t tell! It could also have been because I told the barista not to add any water to the already almost full cup. This may be the first and last time I say this, but the coffee tasted like … coffee! A first for Costa. After a couple of hours we were talked out, although I’m sure Isobel would have kept going for another hour at least. However we had to get home for 3pm. She was going to Tesco which is at the opposite end of the great cavern that is the Antonine Centre. We walked along with her and after she’d bought the plants she came for, I walked back to get the car and bring it round for Scamp and Isobel. On the way I took two photos of one of the architectural monsterpieces of Cumbersheugh. I had plans for it.

Drove round and picked up the two of them, drove to the Village and deposited Isobel at her house. Back home we had time for lunch before a man phoned and asked us a few personal questions before knocking on the door and giving both of us each a cotton bud to stick down our throat and up our nose. We gave it back to him and off he went. That was our Covid survey completed for June, even though it’s still May. I’d say that we’re getting used to it, but that would be a lie. It’s still a really uncomfortable thing to do and we still have another six or so to look forward to. Oh what fun we have.

I forgot to mention that the rain started around 11.30am and it didn’t stop until about 5pm. I know the plants need the rain, but the back garden is going to feel like a paddy field if this goes on much longer. With that in mind, I decided that the two photos I took in the afternoon would make PoD with a little bit of Photoshop magic. The new ‘shop is a far more complex, yet at the same time simpler app than the old version CS3 that I’ve been using for the last 10 or so years. What you see here took an hour or so to do. The last time I tried it, it took four or five hours and it was nowhere near as convincing a result as today’s. I approve of it, even if most of the heavy work is done for you. It’s the result that counts.

Sketch tonight was Your Sketchbooks. There’s no way I was going to draw all my sketchbooks. If I had attempted it I’d probably finish around 4am. A fair selection was all I did. You will note, I’m sure that there are three items in the sketch. An odd number yet again. Makes for a more dynamic composition I’m told.

Don’t know what we’re doing tomorrow. It looks wet, but hopefully not as wet as today.

A dull day – 21 May 2021

It rained. Nice weather for ducks and also swans.

Spoke to Hazy in the morning and got a low down on weather in Epsom, which sounded exactly the same as it was here. Wild and wet. Found about their trip to Wales and pleased that Neil D is expecting to return to work on Monday. A nice rambling conversation that brightened our day.

We drove to Stirling after the phone call mainly to visit Lakeland, but also to get out of the house for a while. No point in attempting a walk the rain stopped that idea. We went to the mini shopping centre that holds Lakeland and Dobbies, one of the last Dobbies after the business was chopped up and sold off. It still holds the Dobbies name, but who knows which conglomerate owns it now. The big “D” was once a garden centre, but now it’s become more of a department store with various different enterprises under its roof. Strangely, it’s possible to walk through from Lakeland to Dobbies although they are separate businesses and don’t share the tills. Scamp wanted a new cling film dispenser in Lakeland and I wanted some proofing wax or cream for my new boots. We got both, but also an assortment of other useful things, plus tonight’s dinner and a couple of plants. I took some photos of the Wallace Monument while we were there. It was a bit distant, but it was sitting under a glowering, but interesting sky. It made PoD. We drove home with a pizza for lunch from Sainsburys and tonight’s dinner from Cook. All from under that same Dobbies umbrella.

When we got home and after lunch, Scamp started the ironing and, as the rain had stopped and the clouds had lifted a bit, I went for a walk in St Mo’s, sticking strictly to the paths. Not much to photograph or to challenge the Wallace Monument for PoD, although I did laugh at the two resident swans out swimming with their seven, yes, SEVEN cygnets. Initially Mrs Swan was trailing three of them and Mr Swan escorted the other four. Then after some unseen signal the two groups of cygnets merged and created a convoy with mum at the front and dad at the back. Then off they paddled to the nest on the island. A photo is on Flickr.

We had a curry from Cook for dinner. Scamp had Chickpea Curry and I had Chicken Jalfrezi. Scamp complained that her’s wasn’t spicy enough. I had to add some yogurt to mine to cool it down. Maybe we should have mixed them for a medium hot curry. Still, it was as good as an M&S curry, but with a bit more flavour. I think we’d try it again.

I bit the bullet today and signed up for the subscription deal with Adobe. So far it’s working really well. It runs faultlessly on both machines and although it’s more expensive than other photo processors, it’s the one I know best. Some of it is pretty useless to me, but that’s always going to be the case. I’ll check it for the fourteen days I’m allowed before I need to buy it and then I’ll decide.

No sketch done today. Too much nonsense to get cleared away. I’ll do a catch up tomorrow.

No real plans for Saturday, but we might go out somewhere for a walk. It’s forecast to be a brighter, but colder day than today.

 

We went shopping – 9 May 2021

In the morning we went shopping for chicken and fruit and stuff.

I was a bit of a mixed bag of weather today. Some light rain and a few gusts of wind, but overall, quite a good day. We went shopping in the morning, just down to the shops with a walk around St Mo’s for me flung in for good measure. That’s when I got today’s PoD. It was a wee daisy sitting up proud against the sky, with a dandelion flower as supporting act. Walking across the boardwalk I got caught in one of those April showers that come in May. It was heavy, but only lasted for a few minutes. Just one circuit of the pond, then it was time to go home for lunch.

Later in the afternoon I went for a second bite of the cherry and found a great swathe of small white flowers. I couldn’t remember their name at first, but knew they was related to Oxalis, then the name came to me, Wood Sorrel. They were interesting, but not as interesting as the Daisy and Dandelion combination from the morning. It wasn’t until I was looking at the photos of the Daisy that I noticed a big straggly ‘dust bunny’. Dust bunnies are small dark dots on a photo and are caused by dust particles on the sensor. This was a bit of hair or a fibre from a jacket. It was easy to remove from the sensor, but the picture took a while to clean up. I’ll probably need to clean the sensor tomorrow to remove any residue.

Dinner tonight was courtesy of Scamp and was Chicken Chilli Pot and although the promised heat was turned down, it was tasty and there’s more left for tomorrow’s lunch.

Dancing tonight started with the Catherine Waltz. We seemed to do well enough to be awarded a ‘pass’. Next was a Cha-Cha and I found it hard to keep up with the music. I’d eventually managed to put together all the parts in the right order, but my feet kept going in the wrong place and too far behind the music! Lastly it was the Midnight Jive which I’m beginning to get to grips with. An exhausting hour.

Spoke to JIC later and hear all his news for down south. How strange it must be to go in to work one day a week and work from home all the rest of the time. I find it hard to come to terms with things like that these days, but for those who need to do it, it must be an even stranger feeling.

Didn’t quite have enough time for today’s sketch but I’m hoping to catch up with the work tomorrow. That and also the sketch for tomorrow, plus, of course the PoD. So glad I don’t have to go in to work, even for one day!

Almost shorts & tee shirt – 22 April 2021

Warmest day so far this year.

Spoke to Hazy in the morning and got the lowdown on life down south. The big question of the day was “Has Joey and Jess’s baby arrived yet?” It hadn’t but there were lots of other things to talk about like having a fountain in your birdbath! That’s just showing off.

Drove out to Torwood garden centre for a look around and for grass fertiliser. Also if we just happened to find any interesting looking plants we’d maybe bring them home too. I got some curly kale plants which I much prefer to the black kale I grew last year and some cheap seed potatoes. We also got a couple of mint plants, a potted Ranunculus and the lawn feed.

Back home it was lunch time then we were out in the garden planting stuff. I planted the seed potatoes, or at least three tubers. Put the kale into the greenhouse to harden off while Scamp potted up the mint and dug out what was left of last years mint and repotted it to see if it would come. After that she stated that she was going to sit in the sun with a book. That’s when I decided it was time for a pair of shorts and a walk in the woods.

There wasn’t much to see for the ordinary punter, but if you’ve got a new toy to play with and a macro lens for it, there’s always an interesting subject or two. Today’s subject was a little fly blowing bubbles on a tree. I’ve seen photos of this activity before on various sites and wondered what was going on. It turns out that the fly cools itself by blowing out and sucking in the tiny water droplet. Why it needs to do that in Scotland, in April is beyond me. Granted, I was wearing shorts, but I had a thick hoodie on too. It wasn’t shorts and tee shirt time yet! The bubble blowing fly got PoD.

Scamp watered the garden, both front and back tonight and I’m sure the plants would feel better after that soaking. It also helped wash in the lawn feed and also the rose feed she’d put on the plants this morning. Quite the little gardening duo today.

Tomorrow we may go for a walk somewhere and maybe visit Isobel.

Day two of freedom – 17 April 2021

My choice today, so blame me, Hazy!

Today we drove to Culross. Yesterday we were warned by JIC not to waste our freedom on Helensburgh. Today Hazy would say we wasted our second day on Culross.

We got parked right away. As one person was driving out we drove in. One out, one in. It’s quite a small car park and we did have an option of another one if the main car park was full. Later in the day we found yet another parking place that we’d not noticed before. Culross is a curious place indeed. Three fairly large car parks for such a small town.

Recently I’ve been describing, partly as an aide memoire for me which routes we’ve taken on our walks. Today, using the theory that one picture is worth a thousand words, I’ll provide you with a map.

We started off at the car park. Almost immediately, I got PoD which is a view of the ‘new’ pier with the precarious looking wooden walkway out to it. Then we walked on a narrow path between the, now defunct railway and the sea wall as far as the start of the reclaimed area that now landlocks Preston Island. We continued our walk beside the sea on our right and the lagoons protected by a chain link fence on the left, listening to larks ascending. It’s only in quiet undisturbed places like Preston Island that you hear skylarks now. They used to be everywhere, now they are getting very rare. We sat on some rocks and after I’d photographed what I think are fossils on the boulders that form the breakwater, we decided we’d turn our walk into a circular tour of the once island. Walked round the closed off area reclaimed by dumping ash from the now almost completely demolished Longannet power station. It was a coal fired power station and there must have been thousands of tons of ash dumped on this land to reclaim it from the salt water of the estuary. It wasn’t the prettiest walk, but the sun was shining and we weren’t climbing any great hills today, so we were just enjoying life.

Walking through an avenue of trees on the north side of the reclaimed land I took a photo of a couple cycling along in front of us (it’s on Flickr) and realised that almost all the cyclists I’d seen today were about our age and almost every one of them was seated on an electric bike. Scamp say’s it’s just the fashion, but maybe it’s going to be the way forward. I’m not sure it’s the right way. I think folk see electric power becoming popular as a ‘green’ alternative to petrol in cars and assume it’s the same for bikes. Surely the ‘greenest’ form of travel is by human power. After all, it keeps you fit. There are no batteries to charge or to replace and it’s cheaper. That said, I’d like to try an electric bike some time!

We came back almost the same way as we went out, except we were on the other side of the railway line. Loads of people and their dogs walking along the path. Everyone rejoicing in their new found freedom. I often think I’ve lost something, a pen, a brush, something I’d hate to lose, only to find it later. The joy it brings to find you’ve not lost something you thought was gone for ever is a great feeling. I believe it’s the same with our freedom being returned after we thought we’d lost it for good.

Tomorrow we may drive to Glasgow Green for a walk, if the weather holds out.

 

More frost, more snow – 11 April 2021

Where has spring gone? It seems like we’re back in the gloomy days of winter.

I’ve always thought trees had a hidden intelligence. They don’t produce leaves until the last frost is over because the frost damages the delicate leaves. Biologists now know that trees can communicate through their roots. When I see trees starting to put out leaves, I know that the ground and the air are warming up, even if I don’t feel it. Something seems to have gone wrong this year. The trees are spreading their leaves, but the temperature last night was around -4º along the Central Belt of Scotland and much colder than that up in the north. Have the trees just held off and held off until they simply had to get the leaves out to convert the minerals from their roots into the sugars and starches they need to grow, despite the temperature? Perhaps that’s so. Perhaps they know that the temperature is on the rise and will continue to rise into summer. Let’s hope so, for our sake as well as theirs.

We kept looking out the window today and saying “It looks nice, but open the door and you’ll feel how cold it is.” It was cold and I was glad I’d put a plant fleece on the rosemary bush in the garden. Poor rosemary is a Mediterranean plant not used to the rough winter weather in Scotland. Like the trees, it had just begun to produce new leaves when last week’s frost burned them. Hopefully the fleece will keep it safe until this spell of cold weather abates. We didn’t move much until after lunch today, and even then, Scamp found jobs to do in the house rather than come out for a walk with me. I got dressed for the cold and went for a walk in St Mo’s. My target was that big horse chestnut tree to grab some shots of the buds bursting into leaves. I got better than leaves, some of the buds contained the flowers, the candelabra of flowers that mark a horse chestnut. One of them made PoD.

Back home Scamp was battering a couple of chicken breasts to make Chicken Milanese. Flattened chicken breast dipped in egg and then breadcrumbs and fried until golden and crispy. Served with potatoes and a salad. Perfect Sunday dinner. She’d also made soup as a starter. Such a clever girl, Scamp.

Dancing tonight was an extension to the Waltz which kind of messed with both our heads until Scamp got it sorted out and taught me! Then the last part of the Tango which also caused us a bit of bother, but after the teachers had gone over it a few times it became clearer.

JIC had given me a birthday prezzy of six months worth of Audible books. I wasn’t sure about the practicality of listening to books rather than reading them, but after listening to The Sandman by Neil Gaiman for an hour, I’m sold. Not just one person reading the story, more a whole play with different people playing the characters. I understand the reason people listen to audio books now.

Spoke to JIC after the dance and heard about he and Sim’s first 10k run today. Watches and horses played a part in the discussion and also houses.

I am still trying to work out how these three post-processing apps can best be used and which of the two full price ones is best. Just now I’m still banking on Lightroom to win the day, but that is by no means certain.

Tomorrow we have a Tesco delivery scheduled for the afternoon, so any walking activity will have to be in the morning.

 

Such a dull day – 28 March 2021

We went out to the shops and that was the extent of the outside ventures today.

We wouldn’t even have gone out if we hadn’t needed milk and some fruit. That’s how bad a day it was. It started raining as we were coming home and then, just as we got in, the rain came down in torrents. It stayed almost all afternoon, only getting lighter later in the day. By then the light was failing anyway, which made a walk pointless. Instead I resorted to a flower picture. Just to make it more interesting, I did a macro of one of the fading Alstroemeria in Scamp’s vase. They actually looked better earlier in the week, but I didn’t have time to photograph them properly. Today I did have that time to be more careful with exposure and focus. I also chose to keep some colour in the background, using some carnations that were sitting on the window sill. All in all, quite happy with the result.

Dancing tonight was difficult. I think we’re fairly competent with the Rumba, but I wasn’t looking forward to the Telemark Turn in Tango. I thought it was something to do with skiing and actually it did look like I was skiing when I was dancing it. After the class was over and I had a chance to look at the video tutorial for the tango, I found where I was going wrong and I think we now look as if we are dancing, not skiing!

Spoke to JIC as we cooled down after that hot tango and got an update on life in the south with the prospect of a heat wave while we struggle to get up into the low teens.

Watched the first F1 GP of 2021 and watched the ‘delusional’ Vettel drive into Esteban Ocon’s car. Not my words, but David Coulthard’s. It looks like Vettel’s going to continue the Wacky Races style of F1 driving he started last year.

Tonight, high winds and rain made a wild and wet end to a dull day. Hopefully tomorrow will be calmer if not drier.